John Travolta’s sweat stains have hit the market, snagging a staggering sum, alongside the iconic Saturday Night Fever white three-piece suit.
The look rose to international fame when Travolta – as Tony Manero – took to the dancefloor in the 1977 classic, joining Stephanie Mangano for an intense disco dance competition.
But it was the film’s promotional imagery that truly immortalised the suit – despite popular, yet incorrect, belief that Travolta had flaunted it during his solo ‘Night Fever’ dance. In posters – as well as on VCR, DVD, and CD covers – Travolta can be seen with his right arm in the air, on a dancefloor, white polyester front and centre.
As Costume designer Patrizia von Brandenstein explained to the New York Post, they were looking for “a white, three-piece suit: dressy, inexpensive and polyester. There was a producer who thought a black suit would be more elegant. But heroes wear white; it’s as simple as that.
“The pastel suits were nice and pretty, but John’s character is very much a hero. Plus, it needed to be something that a boy who works in a paint store would be able to afford. I think the suit sold for $150 or $200.”
Initially purchased off the rack in Brooklyn for $100, the jacket – with matching waistcoat, flared trousers, black shirt, and Travolta’s 45-year-old sweat stains – was expected to fetch up to $250,000 USD (~$374,000 AUD) when it went under the hammer at Los Angeles’ Julien’s Auctions.
Despite its distinct lack of a thorough cleaning, the suit did find a new home, with a buyer dishing out a total of approximately $388,692 AUD to call it their own.
As a spokesperson for the auction house explained, “This suit is considered to be one of the most iconic costumes in cinema history. It is one of only two known to exist that was used during production. It has never been exhibited or sold at auction before.
“It has become emblematic of not only the film but of the whole disco era.”
The suit in question was actually one of a few purchased by the film’s costume designer – two were used on set, rotated in and out while the other dried, and another was used for promotional material – and was given to Julien’s Auctions by an anonymous collector who had received it from Saturday Night Fever’s director, John Badham in 1991.
As for why the iconic outfit was being sold in its unique condition, the executive director of Julien’s Auctions had a simple explanation.
“The sweat is how you know it’s authentic,” Martin J Nolan told The Guardian.
“It was incredibly hot during filming, so you can still see the sweat marks around his waist. We never wash memorabilia. People want the stains, the DNA, particularly when a suit like this one hasn’t been auctioned before.”
This article first appeared on Over60.